What is normal feeding behavior for cats?
In the “wild,” or among feral cat communities, cats hunt for their food.
- Because meals in the wild are not readily available, cats spend most of their time and energy hunting for their next meal, whether or not they’re hungry.
- If left to their own devices, cats will eat 10-20 small meals per day.
How does this translate to my indoor cat?
The domestic cat still has the instinct to hunt for its food, even if it’s readily available.
- A cat who has food freely available will still “hunt” for many small meals throughout the day. Just like in the wild, it will seek out its next meal before it’s actually hungry. Unlike in the wild, the meal will be easily acquired, and the cat will not expend much energy to get it.
- A cat who is meal fed will start to “hunt” for its food before it’s actually hungry, just like in the wild. Unlike in the wild, cats learn that the best way to “hunt for” that meal is by screaming at you every time you walk in the kitchen, or waking you up in the wee hours of the morning! This becomes especially problematic when we ask owners to cut back on their cat’s calorie intake, especially if the cat was used to having a bowl of food at its disposal all the time.
What can I do to make my cat happy?
The best thing that cat owners can do is to provide cats with simulated normal feeding. Normal feeding will include: allowing the cat to hunt for its food, requiring the cat to expend energy to obtain the food, and allowing the cat to use problem-solving skills to get its food.
- Provide your cat with puzzle feeders or feeding balls filled with food, that make kitty work to figure out how to get the food out.
- Hide kibble around the house so cats can “hunt” for it throughout the day.
- Toss kibble for cats to chase and capture, just like they would with prey.
- If kitty wakes you up at night begging for food, feed the largest meal of the day right before bed to help him feel satiated through the night.
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